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A year ago today I was in the far-away state of Alaksa, riding a train on the Alaskan Railroad with two of my good friends and former college hockey teammates. The fourth member of our party was not in attendance on the trip, as she was the bride-to-be and had her hands too full with last minute wedding details to miss two days of preparation and planning.

The flight from Michigan out to Alaska was anything but spectacular. Eight plus hours of flying and a day spent in an airport is not my idea of fun. But as soon as we boarded the train destined for Denali, all memories of a day wasted in a plane and airport vanished. As we left Fairbanks and wound our way around the Alaskan countryside, it became evident to me that Alaska had some of the most beautiful land I had ever laid eyes on.

Upon arrival at the gates of Denali, we marveled at the mountains that surrounded us. Even in the summer, some snow still capped their peaks. The sky was a magnificent shade of blue, unlike sky that I have ever seen before. We grabbed our bags, and set out for a short trail hike. We crossed over a bridge with a raging river far below. It had a strong, powerful current perfect for thrill-seekers who dared to white water raft down its course. At the tops of hills, we often stopped and snapped photos of the mountains and green landscape that stretched below us. As beautiful as it was, nothing could prepare me for what I would see the next day.

At 5:30 A.M., our alarms went off, and the 3 of us quickly dressed and made our way to the awaiting bus. We were the youngest on the bus by far, but we didn’t mind sharing the ride and an adventure with some more mature folks. We drove away from town and arrived at the gates of Denali National Park and Wilderness Preserve just as the first signs of dawn approached. As our bus entered the park, we stopped not too far into our journey, and I snapped photo after photo of the most amazing sunrise I think I could ever possibly see. Before the sun shone above the horizon, a fog laid close to the ground, hovering eerily over the plain and tundra. As the sun made it’s entrance, many shades of oranges, reds, and purples highlighted the sky and shone off of the mountains around us. It was a truly majestic, magnificent, moving sight to be had by all.

We saw many other wonders as we drove through the park that day. A moose on the side of the road eating her fill of grasses. Three Grizzly bears who came down from the mountain-side and decided to take a stroll right past the side of our bus. We all looked on amazed, as they gave us a sniff, then headed back to the woods. Painted mountains with layered levels of brown, tan, and cream colored stone and dirt. And finally, Mt. McKinley herself, off in the distance with her peak covered by a low layer of white clouds. As beautiful and awe-inspiring all of these vision were, to this day, I still am reminded of the gorgeous sunrise I witnessed at Denali every time I am awake and see its first rays welcome my day here back at home.

Today’s Simplest Pleasures:

1.) Who knew the colors of the rainbow can be found even where it isn’t raining? One of my favorite places to find it is when the sun first starts to rise in the morning sky.

2.) National Parks should be something we all work to preserve for future generations, because they are home to animals and vast wilderness that can teach and inspire us.

3.) The beauty of nature never ceases to amaze.


Like most people, I like going on vacation and enjoying myself when I am not at work. It is nice to have a week or two off several times a year for “me time” and “family time” to be spent doing the things we enjoy without having to worry about the stresses and chaos that can come at the daily grind. And don’t get me wrong, I love my job, and I love what I do, but every one needs time away to keep them fresh and re-energized.

Vacations are usually pretty sparse and far between, since I am still new to the working world, so my only time off is the typical “weekend” of Saturday and Sundays between these vacations during the year. My husband and I try to make the most of this time and often travel to visit our families or go fishing, but on occasion, we make a short “vacation” of our weekend by traveling somewhere near by, usually within our state, and staying at a hotel for a night or two just to “spice” things up a bit. It’s a great way to get away without spending too much money or using much in the way of our vacation time/hours to do so.

A good example is this past weekend. My company, for the third year in a row, offered a continuing medical education (CME) conference for doctors and providers at a ski resort just two hours north of where I live and work. The docs in my office all wanted to go, so we shut down early on Friday at noon, no vacation time wasted, and we drove up to the resort that afternoon. We enjoyed two days (Saturday and Sunday) of half day classes, two evenings of dinner with all of the providers and families, and an afternoon (Saturday) of relaxation around the resort.

My husband and I not only had fun meeting other families, and perhaps making some new friends, with some of my colleagues, but it was a nice time for him and I to reunite after a long week of many hours spent at work and little time and energy left at the end of the day for us to reconnect. We enjoyed a quiet lunch together after my classes on Saturday. We felt like kids again, sliding on an “alpine slide” down the side of a ski hill with my coworker and her husband, and frolicking in the pool with the kids, hitting an inflated ball around like a volleyball, trying to keep it up in the air for as long as possible. At the end of the day we had a hotel room we crashed in, watching the Olympics, sharing a few drinks, and good conversation, without the worries of cooking or cleaning dishes like we did at home. Even the two hour drive was pleasurable, him and I catching up on conversation about our weeks and our plans for the following. We arrived home this afternoon, tired from late nights and early mornings, but at the end of this weekend, we feel as if we just returned from a small vacation with new friends and stories to share.

This weekend’s simplest pleasures:

1.) A vacation doesn’t have to be far from home.

2.) It can be relaxing and energizing to leave work and home behind, even if just for a night or two, to spend time away and just enjoy life.

3.) An occasional weekend away with your significant other can be a good way to reconnect after a long week.

One of my favorite times of year involves my family’s trek out to Detroit for our annual family reunion. Next to Christmas and Thanksgiving, I consider it one of my most favorite “holidays.” It is my mom’s family who holds the reunion, often at one of the little parks in St. Claire Shores, MI right on the beach of Lake St. Claire. We missed out last year thanks to a wedding (my own!), but this year I was excited to hear about the rekindling of a fond family tradition.

Saturday afternoon I spent time picking out just the right recipes for my contribution to the picnic potluck. I choose a zesty homemade corn and tomato salad and a sickingly sweet pistachio pudding salad for dessert. When Sunday rolled around, I packed our cooler with these two large salads, 8 hamburger patties, a bag of rolls, some beer and lemonade, and my husband’s personal potato salad. We hit the road on that sunny day and coasted along until 2.5 hours later we rolled into the parking lot across from the park.

As we entered the park, I saw that it was a popular place. There were at least 5 other large gatherings going on at the same time. Even though I hadn’t seen some of these people in years, I was quickly able to establish my family. I could see some of the older men setting up a game of horseshoes, a family tradition at these parties. The tables were covered in food, but more importantly, Italian food. I saw a baked ziti, some lasagna, salad, fresh Italian breads. I must say, us Italians don’t want anyone to go hungry; we love to cook and share our food! As my husband and I entered the circle of tables, family came running over to great us. Most of them had not met my husband before, but they quickly embraced him as one of their own; hugging and kissing him on the cheek. He must have turned about 8 shades of read with all of the older women cooing over him. He definitely stuck out like a sore thumb in this group; the Italians with all of our brown haired heads and eyes and him with his Swedish/Irish fair-skinned complexion, blond hair, and blue eyes. My mom’s aunt even asked if he was from Australia!

After my parents and grandparents arrived, everyone assembled at their tables, and the food was passed around. Talk was non-stop; I caught glimpses and phrases of multiple conversations going on. I wanted to hear about everybody and everything; it was nearly impossible to keep up. After the meal and some birthday cake to celebrate my Grandpa and Great Uncle’s birthdays, people resumed mingling. Our wedding albums were produced which brought a small crowd of people, mostly my mom’s female cousins, who wanted to pour over the glossy photos. Finally, just as soon as the day had begun, it came to an end. Clouds began rolling in that afternoon, and a storm beckoned. We packed up our belongings, and spread our kisses around to our loved ones, promising emails and phone calls to keep in touch, before packing up our car and hitting the road once again.

I feel so blessed that I have family that enjoys getting together on a regular basis to celebrate our love and friendship. I know of so many other families who are broken from divorce; others do not get along and feud too much to make it worthwhile spending their free time together. I hope for every person that they at least have an opportunity to spend time with immediate family on a routine basis in order to enjoy some food, fellowship, and bonding to help strengthen the ties that keep families strongly united.

Today’s simplest pleasures:

1.) Family reunions are a time to strengthen family bonds and to catch up with loved ones whom we may not see very often.

2.) Food and conversation may seem like basic daily necessities, but when combined with the right people, it is a foundation on which love and tradition can be built.

I just married my husband over a year ago, and I can still remember my honeymoon like it was yesterday. My husband and I ventured to the Caribbean island of St. Lucia to a Sandal’s resort to celebrate tying the knot. The weather was a balmy, tropical 85 plus degrees ’round-the-clock. We were greeted by palm trees, banana plantations, and the local people who were so kind and happy to have us as visitors we almost didn’t want to leave. Our resort was just as beautiful as every picture the AAA Travel guide showed us. We were surrounded by lush landscaping and trees that bloomed flowers the colors of a rainbow. The flowery plants attracted an array of hummingbirds; these birds so small and fast, you could only catch a glimpse of them out of the corner of your eye then they were gone. We had three different pools to pick from for our lounging pleasure each accompanied by its own unique poolside bar. There were daily activities galore: beach volleyball, catamarans, kayaking, shuffleboard, and beach-side massages. The pictures we took and the memories we shared will last a lifetime, but nothing will I treasure more than the daily walks we took together on the beach.

The second day of our trip my husband and I decided to explore the beach front property in front of our hotel. It was considered a public area, so we passed groups of local St. Lucians sun-bathing and chasing their kids around the sandy lots. At first we just walked down the beach enjoying each others’ company until my husband spotted his first piece of sea glass. It was a green, smooth piece of glass that had once helped form an old soda bottle; most likely Coca Cola was my guess. He stuffed it into his pocked without saying a word; I watched his action and then quickly followed suit. Soon we were both walking the beach, head down swiveling side to side as we searched for the sea-formed treasures hiding in the sands.

The first day we came back to our room with a pocketful each. We collected our hardware into a plastic bag. From that day on, every morning and afternoon we would spend about an hour beachcombing for our sea glass. We even set guidelines: no brown glass allowed, no sharp pieces, only well worn pieces, and no pieces smaller than the end of our thumbs. We greedily snatched up all we could; we didn’t see it as stealing. We saw it as us helping to make their beaches a cleaner, safer place.

When we arrived home a week later, tan and relaxed from our trip, I pulled a big plastic bag from my suitcase. Inside was at least 5 pounds worth of sea glass we had sorted and soaked in clean water. Each piece had been lovingly dried and polished. I headed to the grocery store and found a quaint glass canister with a clear glass lid that had a hinge to hold it on. We poured our glass into the container until it filled the top. Snapping the lid shut, we stood back and smiled. We didn’t need expensive, fancy trinkets to help us remember our honeymoon. Instead, this canister and the glass that it held was a simple reminder of the time we shared together collecting each piece to help form a unique, one-of-a-kind souvenir.

Today’s simplest pleasures:

1.) Sometimes the best memories and souvenirs are not the ones we buy but the ones we build ourselves.

2.) Find or start your own unique hobby during a vacation to help you remember your trip for always.

It is a perfect evening for fishing. The water is calm and clear with only the occasional ripple brought on by the late afternoon breeze. The air crisp and cool; temperatures hovering just below 70 without an ounce of humidity in the air. We glide swiftly over the glass-like water until we round the bend and decelerate rapidly. We maneuver the boat into a quiet little cover where sunlight is blocked by the shadows of large birch trees with leaves overhanging the coastline. Taking our positions on the boat, we grab our poles and cast the lines holding rubbery, fake worms into the waters below.

We are always on a mission when we go out on our boat; to catch and release the biggest bass possible. But the scenery never ceases to amaze me. I end up spending a large amount of my time sightseeing our surroundings as I deftly cast over and over again. I notice how a large collection of weedy plants along the coastline resemble a larger version of green onions. They have white shoots at the bottom; held-fast with long roots into the mucky sand beneath them. They shoot large green stalks up into the air at least 3 or 4 feet high. As we troll around another bend, we stop in front of a large array of lily pads. The beauty and colors is nothing short of one of Monet’s famous paintings. There are roughly 100 green lily pads clustered together; some of their edges overlapping. Pinkish-white flowers top a few, swaying gently in the breeze. Behind the pads, lined rows of those tall green onion plants and brown cattails. Swimming in a line, weaving in out of the stalks, is a family of little brown ducks. They appear to be searching for food, or at the least, playing follow the leader.

My sightseeing comes to a quick end when I feel a pull on the end of my line. I reel the line in just a little, and sure enough meet resistance. Pulling back hard on the line, I set the hook and begin a mad dash to reel the line in as quickly as possible. The fish on the other end is having nothing of this; he is fighting for dear life and making my life hard by trying to make a run down to the bottom of the lake. I turn the crank with all my might and manage to get the fish up near the surface. My husband drops his pole and comes running to the back of the boat. We both stare in awe as the fish comes into view; it is a large four pound bass with a giant white gleaming belly; his green scales shimmer like sequins under the setting sun. I manage to pull him in close to the boat; my husband ready to pull him out of the water with his bare hands when “snap!” The line breaks. Just as quickly as I had him, my beautiful bass is gone, free to resume his life of roaming the depths for food. I can’t get his image out of my mind; the colors and strength in such a small creature become a sharp reminder: always give respect to your competitor no matter what the competition.

Today’s simplest pleasures:

1.) Boating can be a relaxing way to observe and enjoy an aquatic environment.

2.) Fishing is a sport that can be enjoyed by young, old, novice, and advanced. It is a great way to share summer experiences with families and friends alike.

3.) The excitement and adrenaline rush produced by catching a big fish on the end of your line is equivalent to almost any other sport out there.

4.) When fishing, give respect to your competitor on the other end of the line. Always catch and release to help prevent the body of water from being depleted of its natural level of habitants.

Saturday morning I awoke to a hot and humid day and decided to head out on my usual “long” run. I was shooting for close to an hour of running, and I knew it was going to be tough thanks to the recent demise of my Ipod. It met it’s untimely, watery death in a toilet bowl up at my in-laws’ cottage during vacation about a month ago. I tried Ipod CPR and every remedy I knew on it. I quickly dried it off with a towel and set it out to dry. When that didn’t work, I tried wrapping it in newspaper hoping the paper would absorb the excess water. Then, I stuffed it into a box of rice for 3 days as a last resort. When it STILL wouldn’t turn on, I knew I was doomed. I would have to continue my workouts, for now, music-less until the next Ipod sale came around.

My husband first bought me the Ipod as a gift about 2 years ago on my birthday. As a high school and collegiate runner, I always used to train with a teammate or more, so I never needed the motivation or music to keep my mind occupied. Once I left school and resorted to a lifetime of training alone, he thought it would be nice to have some music to help me get through my workouts. The Ipod became an instant hit; I couldn’t remember how I’d ever lived without it! Every run seemed to fly by, and I was no longer interrupted during my gym sessions by random talkers in the weight room thanks to the earphones crammed in my ears. I guess people decide to leave you alone once they realize you can’t hear what they’re gabbing about.

When the Ipod hit the toilet water, you can imagine how upset I was. How was I going to make it through those long runs alone ? How was I going to face the gym with all of those people who wanted to distract me from my workout with their constant stories about proper lifting technique and protein powders? It was a dark day indeed. Until last Saturday when I headed out for my first hour run without my Ipod.

As I headed down the street, instead of starting my run like I was a horse being shot out of gate at the Kentucky Derby, I actually started somewhat slowly and eased into the run. Without the adrenaline flowing through my body from Linkin Park yelling in my ears, I actually listened and gave it the proper warm up it desired. Feeling the pavement beneath my feet, each muscle and tendon below my waist stretched and awakened. Breathing deeply, I filled my lungs to capacity with the fresh air. As my run progressed, I realized I was paying more attention to my surroundings than I had in awhile. All of my senses became re-awakened. I could hear birds chirping songs in the tree branches above me. I could hear the perfect rhythm of my breathing as I took each step. I could see the beautiful, perfect rows of tall, green cornstalks as I ran past a farmer’s fields. I could smell the earthy scents of dirt and freshly mowed grass. I could taste the saltiness of my own sweat as it beaded down my face and collected on my lip.

Once I neared the last mile of my run, the feeling of lactic acid and fatigue started to settle into my well worn muscles. Instead of forcing every last ounce of energy out of my body, as I often did when I was attached to the Ipod, I listened to my body. Slowly, I eased off the accelerator and allowed my legs to relax and enjoy the last five minutes on the road. The last few steps home, I finished feeling strong rather than completely worn and beaten. The run had a story; a beginning, a middle, and an end. All the runs I had with my Ipod were rushed and fast. My mood was upbeat after realizing not only had I completed the run without the Ipod, I had actually enjoyed it! Dare I say I may have even enjoyed it more?

It has been a month since I accidentally killed my Ipod. I always thought I’d go right out and purchase another one as soon as I had the money to do so. Now that I’ve seen what my body and mind can do without the music though, I am hesitant to return to technology as a motivator. There are definitely days when I wish I had it there to help me through a tough run or as a distraction to keep my mind off of the physical fatigue. Yet, I realize without the Ipod there to distract me, I am enjoying the journey of my workouts more than just the end.

Today’s simplest pleasures:

1.) Never look at a workout as something to “just get through.” Feel blessed and proud that you have a strong body; enjoy every step that it takes you.

2.) Every so often, detach yourself from the headphones. By working out sans music, I guarantee your senses will be heightened; giving you more awareness of both your body and your surroundings.

3.) Every workout should have a beginning (warm up), a middle (steady to hard), and an end (cool down). It helps to break up the monotony of working out at one speed every day and prevents injury in the long run.

The alarm went off at 6:00am. There were two choices of course; sleep in for another hour since it was going to be a long 12 hour day of work and computer training or get up and go for a run. I knew if I slept in, I’d be full throttle all day taking care of others with no time for myself, so I decided to go pound the pavement and spend the only 1/2 hour of my day alone with myself.

I live in a city, so all of my runs consist of sidewalks, crosswalks, and dodging traffic. I did manage to find a nearby park only a mile from home and it has become one of my most favorite escapes from the city noise. As soon as I enter the gate to the park, the sounds disappear, and I am surrounded by nothing but trees and wildlife.

I wasn’t even a half-mile into my first loop of the mile course when I spotted a breathtaking site. Standing on the trail mere yards ahead of me were two baby fawn, not any bigger than Golden Retrievers. They quickly bounded, white tails flashing, into the woods off to my right. I hadn’t stopped running, and my gaze followed them. There standing in the brush just barely hidden by the tree-line was their mom, a big beautiful Doe. I couldn’t help but smile; here I am in the city yet I felt so far away at that very moment.

I finished up my run and went home to stretch. It wasn’t my fastest run by any means; I didn’t set any records or keep track of my pace. But the serenity and sense of accomplishment I felt lasted with me through my day. Seeing the deer wasn’t a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but the sights and sounds I encounter every time I enter that park make it worth lacing up my shoes on a regular basis.

Today’s simplest pleasures:

1.) There is nothing else like the endorphin rush and sense of accomplishment you feel after completing a run or hard workout.

2.) Get away from the city; visit a local park or nature preserve whenever you can. It will make you appreciate nature and this world we live in so much more.

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